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Member since: Tue Jan 6, 2004, 12:46 PM
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Both Sides Promise More Push on Gay Marriage


Interest groups across the ideological spectrum said they would step up their efforts after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled California’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional today.

“We will be explaining the ramifications of this across the country,” said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for the anti-gay marriage Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link. “Judges do not have the right to redefine marriage.”

“Today’s decision affirms what we all know to be true — our Constitution protects the basic civil rights of all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

“This is not the end of the road, for this case or for the larger struggle for marriage equality,” Solmonese said. “We must all continue our work — in courthouses and statehouses, in church pews and living rooms — until equality is reality for LGBT people and our families everywhere.”

Congressional earmarks sometimes used to fund projects near lawmakers' properties

Congressional earmarks sometimes used to fund projects near lawmakers' properties

AU.S. senator from Alabama directed more than $100 million in federal earmarks to renovate downtown Tuscaloosa near his own commercial office building. A congressman from Georgia secured $6.3 million in taxpayer funds to replenish the beach about 900 feet from his island vacation cottage. A representative from Michigan earmarked $486,000 to add a bike lane to a bridge within walking distance of her home.

Thirty-three members of Congress have steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other spending provisions to dozens of public projects that are next to or within about two miles of the lawmakers’ own property, according to a Washington Post investigation.

Under the ethics rules Congress has written for itself, this is both legal and undisclosed.

The Post analyzed public records on the holdings of all 535 members and compared them with earmarks members had sought for pet projects, most of them since 2008. The process uncovered appropriations for work in close proximity to commercial and residential real estate owned by the lawmakers or their family members. The review also found 16 lawmakers who sent tax dollars to companies, colleges or community programs where their spouses, children or parents work as salaried employees or serve on boards.

Report: Lawmakers Steered Earmarks Near Their Own Properties

A massive investigative report by the Washington Post posted online this evening will keep the spotlight on earmarks and insider trading in the days to come.

According to the Post, 33 Members of Congress steered more than $300 million in earmarks and other targeted spending to public projects within two miles of land they owned.

For example, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has secured $4.5 million to upgrade a highway interchange that serves his 104-acre farm and other rental properties he owns.

The Maryland Republican and other lawmakers deny they pushed the projects for personal gain, but the report comes at a time when confidence in Congress is at an all-time low, according to pollsters.

Vice President Biden slams GOP hopefuls at fundraiser


Vice President Joe Biden ramped up his criticism of GOP presidential candidates on Monday, telling a crowd at a fundraiser in Florida that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were woefully out of touch with economic reality.

"Mitt Romney says the best way to deal with foreclosures is to let everything hit the bottom," Biden said at a fundraiser in Tallahassee. "No, no, no, no – by the way, from purely a dollars and cents standpoint, he could get ready to argue that, that's right out of the business school manual. But guess what? We're not reorganizing and purchasing companies, we're trying to rebuild a country."

Biden hits Gingrich's food-stamp comment as 'inappropriate'


Vice President Biden attacked GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Monday, calling the former House Speaker "inappropriate" for labeling President Obama the "food stamp president."

Appearing at campaign stop in Tallahassee, Fla., Biden took aim at Gingrich and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, saying the two Republicans are showing their true colors in their remarks in recent months.

"These are the same guys who are calling the president a 'food stamp president,' a thinly veiled — I don't know what it is, but it's inappropriate," Biden said. "It's inappropriate."

"For the first time, the Republicans are not — to use a football metaphor, hiding the ball. They're saying exactly what they believe. For real, no, it's good. It's good because for the first time we can have an honest debate. These guys aren't out there saying, 'We're compassionate conservatives, we want to fight to protect Medicare and Medicaid.' They're just being straight up, saying what they believe."

Former Wall Street Trader: ‘There’s No Other Industry Where You Could Get Paid So Much

Former Wall Street Trader: ‘There’s No Other Industry Where You Could Get Paid So Much For Doing So Little’

One of the problematic developments for the U.S. economy in the last several decades has been increased financialization. In the 1950s, the financial sector made up less than 3 percent of the economy. Today, it is back to its pre-recession heights of more than 8 percent. The financial sector accounts for about 30 percent of total corporate profits, which is actually down from before the financial crisis, when it made closer to 40 percent.

Increased financialization is of dubious societal use; as former Federal Reserve Chairman and big bank critic Paul Volcker has said, “I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth — one shred of evidence.” (Volcker has opined that the last useful bit of financial innovation was the ATM.) At the same time, the industry is one of the highest paid. In a new piece in New York magazine, a former Lehman Bros trader explained that, in his view, “there’s no other industry where you could get paid so much for doing so little“:

Many (on Wall Street) acknowledge that the bubble­-bust-bubble seesaw of the past decades isn’t the natural order of capitalism—and that the compensation arrangements just may have been a bit out of whack. “There’s no other industry where you could get paid so much for doing so little,” a former Lehman trader said

At 11th hour, vulnerable GOP members back insider-trading bill


A slew of politically vulnerable Republican lawmakers are backing a popular insider-trading bill days before it will be debated on the House floor.

Members have been racing to back the bill since a “60 Minutes” report in November highlighted members who have allegedly invested in stocks based on their knowledge of the inner workings of Congress.

Some members have been quicker to back the bill than others.

The bill has so much momentum that lawmakers who have waited to formally co-sponsor the bill are now feeling pressure to back it.

Obama has small-check donor advantage over Romney


It does not guarantee him re-election in November, but it is an advantage President Barack Obama is likely to carry into the fall: a broad base of supporters who have given him the symbolic vote of confidence with a donation of less than $200.

Known as small donors, these people are personally invested in a candidate's march to becoming president, many ready to become active at the ground level as foot soldiers of the campaign.

Financial disclosures last week showed Obama's campaign in 2011 raised 60 percent of funds, or $58.5 million, from donors who gave less than $200.

The average listed donation to the Obama campaign in the last three months of the year was between $100 and $200, according to a Reuters analysis of the Federal Election Commission filings.

More than 40% of households are less than three months from poverty

by Laura Clawson

While the official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, there's a lot of controversy over how poverty should be measured, and still more over how we should view proximity to poverty, the people who aren't poor but are dangerously close to it. Here's another way of looking at that. The Corporation for Enterprise Development has released its annual assets and opportunity scorecard, scoring the states on how well they promote household financial security through jobs, education, health care, housing and financial assets. Do states support very small businesses? Do they provide quality public education and incentives to college savings? Do they have a minimum wage above the federal minimum and provide cost of living adjustments? Do they provide tax credits to low-income families and prohibit predatory payday lenders?

The scorecard finds that the asset poverty rate of American households is 27.1 percent—these families don't have enough savings or other assets to subsist at the poverty level for three months if they lost their income, even if they were able to liquidate every asset they had in that time. Liquid asset poverty, a measure that excludes hard-to-get-rid-of things like houses and cars, is still higher, at 43.1 percent. That means a great many people who are working now, who aren't showing up on traditional poverty measures, are leading incredibly fragile lives and could easily be thrown into poverty by any crisis. As with almost every measure of this kind, there are huge racial gaps—34.1 percent of white households are in liquid asset poverty, in contrast to 64.6 percent of households of color.

These things don't just happen in isolation, as the scorecard shows. States can take action through policy to make it easier for low-income people to save money, strengthen their financial position, educate their children. Expanded eligibility to Medicaid or access to COBRA coverage can mean that a medical crisis doesn't become a financial devastation. But too few states do adopt the policies that would help families achieve the security to weather a job loss or medical crisis or to help their kids get the education to achieve greater security themselves.

Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, the leading source for data on household financial security and policy solutions.
Click on a state to see data, or check out the issue areas listed below.

Supporters grapple with Komen fracas fallout


Fierce controversy over a policy that cut -- then apparently restored -- funding for Planned Parenthood by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity has left some longtime supporters of both groups feeling whipsawed by the fallout.

Fans who’ve worn pink ribbons and jogged in Race for the Cure runs and those who’ve supported women’s reproductive health services had mixed reactions following news Friday that Komen had agreed to amend criteria that would have barred Planned Parenthood from future grants.

Some Komen supporters said the organization had alienated them forever by cutting funding in the first place based on perceived political pressure from anti-abortion groups.

Some 73 percent of people of took the poll said it would increase their donations to Planned Parenthood, while about 17 percent said it would increase funding to Komen. Nine percent of respondents said they don’t donate to either group.
(MSNBC poll)

Exclusive: Major Romney Bundler Is Agent Of Foreign Government


Ignacio E. Sanchez is a lobbyist at DLA Piper, an influential global law firm and a major bundler for the Mitt Romney campaign. A ThinkProgress review of public records reveals Sanchez is also a registered foreign agent representing the interests of the United Arab Emirates and a former president of the Dominican Republic.

While political candidates are not legally required to identify bundlers — volunteer fundraisers who collect bundles of campaign contribution checks for the campaign — a 2007 law requires that federal candidates disclose the names of any registered lobbyists who bundle large amounts for their campaign. On Tuesday, Romney’s campaign reported that 14 lobbyists combined to raise more than $1.6 million last year in bundled contributions.

One of those lobbyist-bundlers was Sanchez, who raked in $86,700 for the former Massachusetts governor. This major fundraising raises questions about the level of access and influence Sanchez — and by extension, his corporate and international clients — would have in a Romney administration.

Unlike the other 13 identified lobbyist-bundlers, Sanchez is a registered foreign agent. A form filed Monday with the U.S. Department of Justice reveals that he beyond just representing the interests of those domestic clients, Sanchez also represents the embassy of the United Arab Emirates and the presidential campaign of Dominican Republic former president Hipolito Mejia.

Reid warns GOP on payroll fight


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Republicans Thursday they will be forced to vote multiple times on extending the payroll tax holiday if a Senate-House conference deadlocks on the issue.

Democrats are skeptical Republicans want to extend the payroll tax rate, which affects an estimated 160 million Americans, because of dismissive statements several House GOP conferees have made.

Reid vowed to force Republicans to vote against extending the holiday if negotiators miss their Feb. 29 deadline.

“I want everyone to be put on notice that we’re not going to walk away from this without having some serious votes. If they’re unwilling to do something on a bipartisan basis, then we’re going to do something to move the bill forward,” Reid said.
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